The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Height: 30.500 cm
Width: 24.000 cm (max)
Room 48: Europe 1900 to now
Chromium-plated Normandie pitcher, designed by Peter Müller-Munk
New York, United States of America, AD 1935
Inspired by the shape of the funnels on a French ocean liner
This elegant jug was designed by the German-born designer Peter Müller-Munk (1907-67) and made by the Revere Brass and Copper Company. It is a good example of the type of exaggeratedly streamlined forms popular in the United States during the 1930s. It was inspired by the shape of the funnels on a famous French luxury cruise liner, Normandie, launched in 1935, the same year this piece was created. The ship became particularly well known after it appeared on a stylish poster by the graphic artist Cassandre (Adolphe Jean Marie Mouron, 1901-1968).
In cross-section the vessel is tear-shaped, highly appropriate considering its function as a water jug. Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958), another leading contemporary American industrial designer of the period, regarded the waterdrop as the perfect streamlined form. The body of the pitcher is formed of a single sheet of metal, bent to shape and joined along the pointed edge. Although it looks as though it might be impractical to use, the pitcher is extremely functional and the spout pours perfectly.
Peter Müller-Munk trained as a silversmith in Berlin before emigrating to the United States in 1926. Initially he made individual pieces by hand, but following the New York Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the economic Depression of the early 1930s, the market for luxury silverware collapsed, and he turned instead to industrial design. This piece was mass-produced from a much cheaper material, brass, chromium-plated to give it a more luxurious finish.
J. Rudoe, Decorative arts 1850-1950: a c, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)
M. Eidelberg, Design 1935-1965: what modern (New York, 1991)
K. Davies, At home in Manhattan: modern d (New Haven, 1983)
R.G. Wilson, The machine age in America, 19, exh. cat. (New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1986)